Absolutely Positively Not is a book about being gay (or not). I absolutely loved the short chapters. Proof Cheryl Klein (at Levine) didn’t edit it since she snarked at me once about having short chapters. She’d never let these wee chaps make it to publication. Anyhow, the voice. A little annoying, honestly. Too much internal ramble. What about showing? Like there’s a lot of Stephen telling us all about his internal struggles, but couldn’t things have been shown through conversation, subtext, what’s not said?
Take the above issue and add in humor. Take the library scene where Stephen is looking for books about sexuality. If you’re going for humor why not have Stephen ask the librarian with golf-bag arms for books on sexuality instead of the overblown slapstick fake cough bit?
Stephen’s attempts at fitting in with social norms are so valiant and honorable. I expect this book got some negative press because of its subject, but who could hate a guy who goes to such great lengths to not be gay? Done exceptionally well, and funny too.
Aversion therapy with the rubber band. Now that is funny.
But Stephen’s coming out rang false. Rachel (his female friend) has such stereotypical parents—uber-open-minded, tree-hugging liberal, versus Stephen’s pick-up-truck, ice-fishing, traditional parents. Why are stereotypes like this “acceptable” when most others are not? But the “So Elton John is gay, huh?” line made me laugh, so I forgave the whole coming out chapter and moved on.
Also the switch from testing gayness to being gay seemed abrupt to me, but the telling of the parents worked. One thing’s for sure: Stephen has me wrapped around his finger. I love this guy. And I loved the ending. Thoroughly satisfying.
What Jamie Saw is the story of a boy and his mother fleeing an abuser. The first chapter is heartbreaking and poignant. Coman chooses a close 3rd person but incorporates a distinct narrator voice—mature, respectful (similar to the Ramona books but less optimistic). So the voice...
Looking for Alaska is easily one of my favorites from the MFAC booklist. Even though I’ve grown a little tired of the forced-funny, self-deprecating voice so ubiquitous in contemporary ya, and tired of a protagonist who stands there going “um hum” while everyone else gets the great one-liners. But here...
S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Amazing. Hard to believe this novel was written by a teen. What trumps all here is a sympathetic protagonist and a strong storyline. Hinton can get away with...
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 14-year-old Arnold (Junior) Spirit fights racism and his tribe’s anger as he tries to escape the alcoholism, depression, and death of life as a reservation Native American. I can see why this book received so much attention.
Forged by Fire is gripping! And excruciatingly painful to read. A few thoughts: I’m not sure if I bought...
Seriously, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 was entirely fascinating. Like brain porn or something. I love medical weirdness and plagues and boils and gross stuff. So this book had me from the title.
Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood crafted a moving introduction. The importance of keeping a family story alive. I wonder, though, if this story would have more power in a different format?
In We Are the Ship Nelson combines fabulous paintings with rich text full of voice for a truly interesting look at the Negro League of baseball. The paintings are gentle, respectful, full of love with absolutely amazing use of light.
Tuck Everlasting. I first read this in upper elementary when I was in a special "advanced" reading class where I got to spend the English hour on the beanbags in the corner and read my way through Newbery classics.
True Believer is a novel in verse, or is it? I would say funky line breaks and jaggy right margins do not verse make (how’s that for some ferociously f*rked syntax?).